I know when it was because it was after that May Sunday I’d watched, from home, the TV broadcast of the Mother’s Day celebration where Ramoncito Veloz (the son) sang in front of the cameras wearing his Conrado Benítez Brigade uniform. I know when it was because it was before my fourteenth birthday, which I celebrated on July 10, 1961, with the Núñez family where, among others, I taught the two young farmers who are with me in this photograph to read and write.

Half a century has passed since that imprecise date on which I worked on the literacy campaign at a place called Aguilar, near the coast in the Camaguey municipality of Santa Cruz del Sur. I’ve never again visited that place, nor have I again milked a cow, which was the most wonderful thing I learned from them, along with horseback riding, hunting hutias, and swimming in the river.

What I would really like to know is how many books have my students read in this time? Do they live in Cuba? Do they remember their scruffy teacher? Have they surfed the Internet? Luis, to my right, who rode the fastest mare in the territory; Néstor on my left, an enviable shot with his slingshots. It was beautiful. Those were days so full of hope that it seemed there was never room for any other feeling.